Post #11 – How I Work

Lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

It’s been a while. I seem to be more focused when I write, but given a significant change in role in the last couple of years and a complete re-jig of my life outside of school, it’s been difficult to get into the habit of writing regularly outside of my Schools Week gig. Things have settled down these days, so I’m going to get stuck in again.

One of my favourite articles to read if’s ‘How I Work’ series. I used the template in the early years of my blog to learn about how Maths teaching experts like Jo Morgan, Ed Southall and Ben Ward dealt with their daily working lives. This time round, I’m using this to breath life back into this blog…

Location: Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Current gig: Vice Principal at Horizon Community College
Current computer: Dell PC at school, iMac at home.
Current mobile device: iPhone 6s – 3 years and still going strong! (may be an inadvertent kiss of death)
One word that best describes how you work: Determined.

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I always wanted to work in education, but started out with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Sheffield Hallam University and experience in rail before taking the plunge with a PGCE at the University of Manchester. After a formative experience starting out as a teacher of Maths and ICT in Derbyshire, I returned to my stomping ground in South Yorkshire with various middle leadership roles (mainly as a Subject Leader) before moving on to working at two schools in the Dixons Academies Trust. I assumed my current role at the end of 2017 and haven’t looked back since.

What are your job responsibilities?

Vice Principal for Raising Achievement. I am responsible for Curriculum and Progress, amongst many other things. Basically, I need to make sure our students are studying the right things whole college, and following the right courses in KS4.  As well as this I have to make sure we’re putting all the processes in place to support our students do the best they can, whatever their circumstances, interests or abilities. With 2000 students in our care that’s a big ask, but it’s an enjoyable one.

Take us through a usual workday.

I get up about 6:15. After getting showered and dressed, I have breakfast – usually porridge and a decaf coffee – and then I’m usually greeted by the sound of my darling daughter waking up. After spending a bit of time with her and my bleary-eyed wife, I head to work. My epic commute of about 10 minutes is soundtracked by a podcast. I like to get my day in order – clearing e-mails, getting my to-dos up-to-date, printing lesson resources (I still teach) before getting stuck into the meetings, duties and teaching that takes up my day. Lunch is normally something carb-laden but I’m trying to address that. I’ll normally have a line management meeting where I make an effort to focus on their development and not so much on admin! Otherwise, it’s a case of balancing strategic planning and implementation and the whirlwind of daily college life. Through the day I bounce ideas and next steps off my fellow senior leaders, a few of whom I share an office with.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

A notebook, my iPad and a cheap pen. I lose nice pens.

What’s your workspace setup like?

At work, I have standard issue Dell desktop with a dual monitor set-up. I’m often looking at Excel spreadsheets on one and planning documents on another.

What’s your favorite shortcut or hack?

I don’t really do hacks anymore, but if this counts I love a checklist for a process. Particularly big ticket things like Options or Exams window planning. Oh, and mindmaps. I love a mindmap.

Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place.

I only wear white shirts with a suit for workwear. It saves having to coordinate.

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

It used to be on a notepad, but I’m trying to embrace the world of OneNote to centralise my thoughts, resources and to-do list.

How do you recharge or take a break?

Spending time with my family, watching University Challenge or reading. We have just bought a hot tub and I regret nothing.

What’s your favorite side project?


What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is my daily reader at the moment, our students read it for GCSE Literature, and I like to be aware of what they need to deal with. I’ve also got Boys Don’t Try by Pinkett and Roberts as my continued research book, and I also have a third book on the go via Audible, which is You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

Tom Sherrington.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Work hard, and be nice. Hard to argue with it.

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

How to stop saying yes to people. I love to help, but it can be burdensome…

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